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Swakopmund, Namibia

A tracking, telemetry and command station was constructed at the South Atlantic coastal town of Swakopmund in central Namibia in east Africa. It was completed in July 2001 year following an agreement signed in October 2000 between the governments of China and Namibia in Beijing. Windhoek Consulting Engineers was contracted by the Chinese to build the station. China's Xi'an Satellite Control Center in Shaanxi operates the Swakopmund ground station. Namibia was chosen as the spaceship would be right over the country, specifically west Namibia, during its re-entry and braking phases. A specific site just north of Swakopmund to the east of the Henties Bay-Swakopmund road and opposite the Swakopmund Salt Works, was identified for the center. The station, constructed at a cost of about N$12 million, covers an area of 150m x 85m and consists of an administration building, kitchen and dining complex, garage and generator room, and dormitory complex, which is enclosed by by a two-meter high wall. Two antennas or satellite dishes - 5m and 9m in diameter, with the latter reaching a height of 16m - were erected. The station houses 20 permanent staff during a mission phase, while about five personnel stay there continuously to maintain the equipment. While an average mission will last about two weeks, the technicians will start preparing and adjusting the equipment two months before the starting date of a mission.

Swakopmund, Namibia's second biggest town and traditional "summer capital", was of major significance as a harbor during the German colonial era, although the water at the coast is actually too shallow and a protected bay is missing. It is widely known for its German architecture and is also a popular tourist destination for many Namibians. The town is approached through the endless expanses of the Namib Desert, one of the world's largest wilderness areas, through the mists (it is almost always misty in the morning and late afternoon) Bavarian spires and elaborate Germanic architecture rise through the fog banks. Just outside town is the extraordinary Moon Landscape, a seemingly never-ending series of bizarre hills that look like pictures taken of Mars, or the Sea of Tranquillity. It is best visited at sunrise or sunset.

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